Ambitions for sustainability conference in jeopardy

Danish ministers attending the global sustainability conference may have to lower their expectations as concern is voiced over ‘weak’ commitments to global sustainability

The Environment Ministry is pushing for a 'green GDP' and a global commitment for sustainable development at the United Nations Earth Summit .

Thousands of participants from governments, NGOs and business have gathered at the conference, more commonly referred to as Rio+20, with the aim of creating a global vision for tackling the stress on resources brought about by climate change and an expanding global population

Ahead of the conference, the environment minister, Ida Auken (Socialistisk Folkeparti), said there was a need for growth and development that can lift people out of poverty.

“But if there are to be enough resources for everyone we need to move toward a green economy,” Auken wrote in a press release. “We need businesses to integrate environmental concerns into the core of their work. That is what we will achieve at Rio+20 through concrete decisions and a transition to a green economy.”

The development minister, Christian Friis Bach (Radikale), was a key player in bringing together 105 countries to make a joint declaration last week calling for global goals on sustainability, a green economy and to ensure stronger global organisations.

“The common declaration underlines that more and more poor countries no longer see the development of a green economy as a limitation but rather as an opportunity to create sustainable growth and new workplaces,” Bach said in a press release.

Bach also stated earlier this week that Denmark would donate 10 million kroner for research into how to integrate environmental costs into calculations of GDP. Denmark will also be a trial country for the new ‘green GDP’ measurements.

Global leaders fly into Rio today to discuss the final draft text that was released last night by the Brazilian hosts after weeks of negotiations.

But alarm was immediately raised this morning by a number of organisations, who say the text is so weak that it would be useless in the transition to a more environmentally sustainable global economy.

“Nobody in that room adopting the text was happy. That’s how weak it is,” the EU’s climate commissioner, and former Danish environment minister, Connie Hedegaard, tweeted.

“Rio cannot afford not to have concrete results. Rio must get it right,” Hedegaard added in an opinion piece for EurActiv, an EU news website.

Concern focussed on the lack of timetables, financing and environmental monitoring. Aspects of the text that were welcomed included commitments to eliminate fishing subsidies that contribute to overfishing, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies as well as strengthening the UN environment agency, UNEP.

In December 2009, Denmark presided over the COP15 climate conference in Copenhagen that ended in confusion and without any binding global targets to reduce carbon emissions – an event that was both embarrassing for Denmark and tragic for environmentalists that argue limiting carbon emissions is the only way to avoid devastating climate change.